WOTW: Vinya Carles Priorat Crianza

Now surely what everyone is looking for is a good value red wine for every day drinking. Every few months I check out what Lidl has to offer and pick up a bottle or two if it looks sufficiently interesting. Todays offering was a a “91 point” Priorat – an outrageously high bar to attain for £5.79.  I was drinking my way through this bottle for almost an hour and struggling to write a tasting note – in fact I didn’t write a word . The upshot – this is actually rather good spectacular.

Now why is this supermarket offering making me salivate? The minerality is the answer. There is an article from Jancis Robionson that suggests that Priorat is equivalent to Achleiten for terroir. Given that supermarket wines rarely champion minerality this is something I can well believe on the back of this example. I was so surprised with this wine I sent fellow contributor The Gas Man to pick up a bottle and provide a second opinion.

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Decanting often helps to show a wine at its best

Vinya Carles, Priorat Crianza, Spain, 2011

Cépage: Grenache, Carignan. Alcohol 14%. Purchased from Lidl at £5.79.

Thoughts from The Shrink:

This was pretty heavily oaked on initial tasting with some volatile acidity, it slipped down delightfully and I failed to write any notes. The wine was decanted and left in a cool spot overnight before returning on day 2 determined to write something.

This wine is an intense garnet, tending towards purple with no sign of bricking. Fresh and crunchy blackcurrant lead in to a dry wine of moderate body and tannin. We find notes of coffee, dark chocolate and dried dates fleshing out the mid palate. There is a pretty healthy dose of oak contributing structure but without becoming overpowering. The finish delivers high levels of minerality, holds a moderate length and is kept in focus by a backbone of high acidity.

Conclusions: Surprisingly fresh, crunchy fruit. Given this is a crianza I think it is spot on with the style. An interesting offering and incredible value at £5.79.  I will be purchasing a second bottle to compare further as I am truly shocked by the value of this.

Score: For me this gets a comfortable 90/100 (DT)

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A bargain basement price and a genuine bargain of a red wine.

A Second Opinion from The Gas Man:

What we are presented with, is a bright, clear, deep purple coloured wine. There is no evidence of flocculation in the wine. There is an immediate and quite intense bouquet of baking spices, vanilla, dried red fruit and even some green apple skin like tartness. Even before tasting, the wine doesn’t try to hide the fact that it has been sat in oak barrels for over a year (this is a requirement for the Crianza title).

According to the producer, they use a combination of French and American oak barrels – as the two very different woods produce markedly different aromas and flavours. For French oak, this tends to be subtle spicy flavours, for American, bold, brash, creamy vanilla (sometimes described as cream soda) – imagine the flavours of american bourbon – that epitomises american oak. Its in the skill of the winemaker to blend these two flavours to create a balanced flavour to complement the wine. A really good way to think of the use of oak in wine making, is to think of it as a seasoning. Too much, as with salt to food, ruins a wine (although such practices were seen as rather trendy in the 80s, where body was king). Too little and you don’t really get the effect. It needs to be just right (and of course everyones definition of just right is quite different)! Anyway, I digress…

On the palate, there is a smooth velvety mouth feel courtesy of a generous dose of tannins, a medium acidity, medium body, giving initial red fruit flavours such as red cherries, developing into dried apricots, vanilla and baking spices. As The Shrink pointed out, this wine has a really interesting and distinct minerality that is typical of the region (see my earlier review of another Priorat in Pinxos Party with Casa Rojo). Its almost blood like, from the irony flavour, but not in an unpleasant way. Its quite intriguing, different and you know what? great.

I am a big fan of this wine, especially at this price point. I really struggle to think of a wine that for the money would beat this. To me what lets this down is perhaps a little too much oak, but that is personal preference. In summary, Lidl is open until 8pm weekdays (10pm in some places), get yourself there and grab a bottle or two whilst stocks last!

Score: 90/100 (MI)

A Surprising Syrah

The below wine was tasted blind and caused a lot of consternation.  I have copied up and expanded my blind tasting notes as a review.

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Foremost Syrah, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 2015.

100% Syrah, Alcohol 13%.
Purchased in Lidl for £8.99.

Appearance: Moderate intensity garnet with purple rim.  Legs suggest alcohol probably around 12.5-13%.

Nose: Lean nose, mono-dimensional and primary but i struggle to identify much fruit in it. Volatile acidic compounds on nose contribute a slight vinegar note.

Palate: The wine is dry with very little residual sugar.  There was almost no fruit on the palate though what is there suggests darker rather than red fruit.  Seriously savoury but without the complexity that might be expected.  This has a light body, medium tannin, and high acidity.  There is a slight bitter/medicinal note on the finish – verging on tasting slightly unripe.  [Retrospectively after looking at other tasting notes for this wine I agree there are prominent white pepper notes which are the basis of the savoury flavour]

Quality: The wine is well made with no faults of note.  The balance is actually quite good. I would rate this as likely vin de pays or low ranking appellation.

Identity: With the austere presentation I felt this was most likely an old world wine, and certainly from a marginal climate. I really struggled to identify the grape although Syrah was in my shortlist.

Expected Price: £4-5

Initial Score: 79/100

Day Two:  After 24 hours in the decanter I went back and tasted this again and was surprised to find it was showing much better.  The wine had opened up somewhat with a mixed red/black fruit fleshing out the aromas.  Frankly this was a far more enjoyable wine on the second day.  The score would probably edge up a bit but I don’t seem to be on the same page as Decanter with this one.

Conclusion: A quaffing wine for those preferring a dry and savoury style. I have no qualms drinking this (in fact I have quite enjoyed it) but it does little to excite.  Despite this it is an interesting wine and I would be keen to search out a few more examples of Syrah from Hawke’s Bay.   The white pepper notes and general presentation for Syrah are certainly unique.

Lidl: South African White Blend

Having returned from South Africa I got home to find my father had picked up the 90+ scoring wines from Lidl’s latest wine release.  Decanter have also been giving them a swirl so I thought I would post my thoughts.

South african blend 13.3.16 web

La Meridonale, Western Cape, South Africa. 2015.

Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Roussanne blend, 13.5%
Sold in Lidl for £5.49. Imported by offpistewines.

Given I was unable to find anything bout La Meridonale I can only assume this is a bottling for another producer.

Tasting Note: Peach and pear on the nose and this fruit continues on the palate.  The wine has a medium body and is in dry style but vanilla notes on end of the palate lend a slight sweetness. High acidity keeps wine in focus whilst oak gives structure. 13.5% alcohol suits the style. Surprisingly for supermarket wine at this price point this also expresses good minerality and salinity on the finish.

Having just returned from 2 weeks in the Western Cape I would be very interested to know who is making this.  This wine is fresh, in an early drinking style and very accessible when considered alongside the more majestic whites from the cape.  The Quality:Price ratio is superb – drink up!

Conclusions: Representative South African white in a new world style. Unusual but well balanced blend with judicious use of oak.  For the price you can’t really fault this.

Score:89/100